One of the benefits of reading the Old Testament alongside of the New Testament is illustrated in this week’s reading. As you work through Joshua in the Old and Acts in the New, a few similar threads should come up. First, while Israel is commissioned to go in and take possession of Canaan, the early Church is commission to go take possession of the ends of the whole world starting at Jerusalem and going out to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Where Joshua led God’s people in a victorious military conquest, Jesus leads His people in a victorious Gospel conquest.
What reading the two testaments in parallel does is highlight that God’s redemptive purposes have not altered throughout all of human history. The early chapters of the story lead us to the “aha!” moments of the later chapters. Joshua routes pagan enemy armies; but Jesus routes the enemy within us and sends us to conquer the world with the good news of His Gospel. Jesus is a fiercer conqueror, for all who refuse to submit to His Kingdom will, in the end, feel the full wrath of almighty God.
But while some question how a good God could send His people to kill and slaughter enemy nations, we shouldn’t forget one of the key hinges of the story of Joshua. Right in the thick of the first conquest we have a pagan woman, Rahab, who by faith saw that the God of Israel was the One True God, and because of that faith is joined to God’s covenant people. Rahab, who should have been destroyed, is shown mercy. Not only is she shown mercy, but she becomes an ancestor to King David, and ultimately to “great David’s greater son.” The conquest of Canaan shows us that God’s mission was always one of reconciling fallen man––His enemy––unto Himself. Those who refused to surrender to the armies of the living God felt the edge of His sword. But those who fled to His arms, found salvation.